This is the story of two friends: one who can cook, one who can’t; one who’s innovative with food, one who would have tofu stirfry every night if allowed; one who’s a superstar dietitian, one who makes good books.

After a while of playing “What shall I have for dinner?” amongst themselves, they’ve decided it’s time to share the fun with the world.

The game starts with Jo (the food-challenged friend) sending a plaintive email to Lyndal (the one who likes a good discount on books) saying “All I’ve got in the fridge is some pumpkin and some manky looking carrots – what the hell am I going to have for dinner?”.

In between saving the world, one diet at a time, Lyndal replies with at least a couple of delicious sounding meals that can be made with pumpkin and some other pantry staples (the manky carrots are consigned to the bin).

Duly inspired by her talented friend, Jo rushes home and cooks up a delicious pumpkin, lentil, chickpea and walnut salad (what normal person would come up with that combo?) and enjoys a satisfying and healthy dinner.

As well as inspiring each other with food, Jo and Lyndal also like to beat the crap out of each other at boxing classes, shop for clothes they can’t afford, and drink gorgeous NZ sauvignon blanc.

Jo’s meagre kitchen supplies

I tend to buy the same thing, week after week. I like a good routine, and I’ll only break out of mine if I find a recipe that inspires me enough to go out and buy new things. And then if I like it, I’ll make that same thing, week after week :).

In fact, I tend to buy a lot of things from habit, without thinking about whether I’ve used them recently, which is why I have five tins of red kidney beans in the cupboard, when I haven’t used them in forever.

So, here’s what I usually have in my cupboard, and what Lyndal assumes I’ll have in my cupboard when she’s thinking up things for me to cook. Please don’t judge me too harshly, especially when you compare it to Lyndal’s stores!

Freezer:

  • Always some kind of homemade soup. In fact, at the moment, I have five different kinds of soup. Clearly it’s winter
  • Bread. This varies a little bit, but is usually some kind of grainy bread or a rye bread
  • Frozen spinach (for making the aforementioned soups)
  • Frozen celeray (ditto. I tend to buy a bunch when I want to make soup, and then chop up all the rest and freeze it in soup-size portions)
  • Chicken breast
  • Occasionally icecream, but that doesn’t usually last very long
  • Reduced-fat puff pastry. This is a new thing, and I’m not sure if I’ll be repeating it, as it tends to make me bake more pies…
  • There’s also usually a couple of frozen meals that I’ve cooked up at the weekends, just in case I get home late from work and can’t be bothered (do you sense a developing theme here?)

Fridge:

  • Natural yoghurt
  • Soy milk
  • Butter & margarine
  • Reduced-fat vintage cheddar
  • Olives
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Lettuce (or baby spinach leaves), carrots, zucchini, green pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms – these are the staple vege that I buy every week, whether I have something in mind or not
  • Some other random vege that I’ve seen at the supermarket and thought “Oooo, that looks shiny”, like button squash, asparagus, eggplant – generally things on special, which often go off because I forget that they’re there

Cupboard:

  • Tinned chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, light evaporated milk, kidney beans :), tuna
  • Various pasta shapes (I also have a pasta maker and love making fresh pasta), arborio rice, 90 second brown rice, rice noodles, hokkien noodles, couscous (normal and pearl – I don’t know why,  it was shiny)
  • Eggs
  • Red lentils, barley, soup mix
  • Assorted stocks and spices
  • Onions

And, of course, I have a whole separate cupboard that is dedicated solely to baking supplies – I have five different types of flour! Does that redeem me from the patheticness of my cooking supplies?

We’d love to know what you always have to have in your cupboard/fridge/freezer – who knows, you might inspire me to go out and buy some…and then beg Lyndal to tell me what to do with it!


Lyndal’s favourite cookbooks

It goes without saying we both love to cook, however the way each of us do so is very different.  Jo is fantastic at following recipes, where as I like to experiment with ingredients and methods, chucking things together willy-nilly!

Despite this, we also share a love for books,  particularly food and cookery books.  Between the two of us, we have a pretty great selection!

Unfortunately, not all cookbooks are created equally.  There are thousands, nay, millions, of cookbooks out there, and for every fantastic, can’t-live-without cookbooks there are twenty duds, leaving you with flat muffins and bland soups.

Although I don’t often follow recipes (especially for savoury dishes – I usually read them for a general idea and tweak them beyond recognition!), there are a few cookbooks that I really can’t live without.  I have found the recipes in these books to be reliable and delicious – they are the books I can always turn to when I’m lacking inspiration.

So what books are they? Read on to find out!

1) The Commonsense Cookery Book, Home Economics Institute of Australia

This book has been around a long time – 96 years to be precise.  It was the textbook for Home Economics for a long time.  I learnt to cook from my Mum’s copy of this book – still in imperial measures – and my Sister used the metric version in Home Ec class some 20 years later.

The Commonsense Cookery Book is packed with cooking basics, and all the old-fashioned favourites that Grandma used to make.  Think jam-drop cookies, devilled eggs and pumpkin scones.  The food is unpretentious, simple and easy – and every recipe I have cooked from this little gem has turned out perfectly.

2) The Cook’s Companion, Stephanie Alexander

This marvel is my kitchen bible.  In fact, it’s my food bible!

Stephanie is an acclaimed Aussie chef, famous for her passion for encouraging young people to cook and experience food.

The Cook’s Companion is an alphabetical encyclopaedia of all things culinary, divided by ingredient.  So no more struggling to find a use for the surplus silverbeet from Mum’s garden wilting in my crisper –  Stephanie knows what to do with it!

The recipes range from basic through to restaurant-quality, and every one I have tried has been delicious.  My favourites are the buttered apples topped with crumble and the fresh tomato sauce.

One of Stephanie’s other books that I find just as useful (and very pretty) is the Kitchen Garden Companion.  This book not only has great recipes, but loads on info on growing your own food.

3) The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook, Jennifer Graham

This little book is a delight!  Filled with amazing cupcake batters and THE BEST buttercream and other decadent icings, I have not had a cake disaster from this book yet.

All the recipes have been modified from Jennifer’s commercial recipes sold in her bakery in Melbourne’s Prahran Market.  As such, they are rich, large recipes.  Much to my partner Matt’s delight, there is always too much icing – leaving plenty for him to lick from the spoon (and bowl)!

These are my cookbooks du jour.  Do you have a favourite cookbook you used all the time?  Please feel free to let us know which one and why.

Happy cooking!

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